Samuel Pierce, Jr., Reagan cabinet member
Samuel Pierce Jr.
Samuel Pierce, Jr., was born on this date in 1922. He was an African American lawyer and politician, and the first Black to serve in Ronald Reagan's cabinet.
Samuel Riley Pierce was born in Glen Cove, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1947 and received a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1949. He earned a Master of Laws degree from New York University School of Law in 1952.
From 1953 to 1955, he was an assistant United States attorney in New York. In 1955, he became an assistant to the undersecretary of labor. In 1959 and 1960, Pierce served as a New York state judge. In 1961, Pierce became a partner in the law firm where he remained until becoming secretary of HUD. He left the firm temporarily from 1970 to 1973 to serve as general counsel for the Department of the Treasury.
Pierce served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 1981 to 1989. He then became the first black to serve in President Ronald Reagan's Cabinet.
In 1989, the U.S. Congress began an investigation to determine whether Pierce had engaged in mismanagement and abuse of resources and funds as secretary of HUD. The investigators concluded that, under Pierce, the department had become a center of influence peddling and favoritism toward Pierce's friends and political allies. They reported that Pierce and his aides may have illegally steered large amounts of government money toward projects developed by influential Republicans.
As a result, according to the investigators, millions, if not billions, of dollars were wasted. The funded projects involved the renovation of low-income housing. In early 1990, a special prosecutor was appointed to determine whether Pierce or his aides had committed any crimes. The scope of the prosecutor's investigation was later expanded to cover a number of other areas, including Pierce's role in several other housing programs.
In the early 1990s, several of Pierce's aides were found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges related to influence peddling and favoritism. In 1995, prosecutors announced that Pierce would not be charged.
Pierce died November 2000.
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington D.C. 20540
Pierce Jr., Samuel
Today in American History